Malaysia’s new Foreign Policy Framework adopts human-centric approach to issues

19 Sep 2019 / 18:26 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Experts lauded the Foreign Policy Framework of the New Malaysia launched Wednesday, describing it as a people-centric document that captures the current administration’s approach to foreign policy and a pro-active move in the ever-changing world of geopolitics.

Themed ‘’Change in Continuity’’, the 80-page framework available on Wisma Putra’s website documents the basic elements of Malaysia’s largely-unchanged foreign policy, with some alterations made in the approach and the emphasis on certain specific issues.

The framework is broadly based on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 28, 2018.

Universiti Utara Malaysia Head of International Affairs Department, School of International Studies, Dr Bakri Mat, said what stands out the most is the human-centric approach in which the framework was prepared.

“This has been proven through activities such as workshops, seminars and the series of town hall meetings or forums held to get input from various parties in the process of drafting the new version of the foreign policy. To me, this is a good approach,” he told Bernama International News Service.

Bakri said even though the public is given the platform to contribute their ideas as stated in the framework, they need to support the country’s leadership under Mahathir and government officials to make the best decisions for the benefit of the country and the people.

Public consultation initiative

Azmi Hassan, a political analyst from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said the framework might be similar to other country’s white paper on government policies, which is normally reviewed every five to six years.

“As far as I know, Malaysia has never made this (foreign policy framework). Before this, anything related to foreign policies is only based on government and cabinet decisions,“ he said.

He added that the new processes of public consultation initiative as outlined in the framework – such as through the Consultative Council on Foreign Policy comprising experts from various backgrounds – would allow for healthy discussions and debates.

“This has been practiced in many developed countries. Each practice will get the public’s point of view because they will be the ones affected. This strategy is adopted to get the public to support the foreign policy,“ he said.

He also said the initiative will avert public backlashes such as the incident which happened when Malaysia decided to sign or ratify the Rome Statute and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

Malaysia has since announced that it will not ratify the Icerd, saying that it was taking public views into account before making a decision. On April 5, 2019, Mahathir announced that Malaysia will withdraw from the Rome Statute of ICC following the confusion that arose politically and within the society.

Asean remains important for malaysia

As before, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), of which Malaysia is a founding member, remain an important element in the country’s foreign policy.

Described as the cornerstone of Malaysia’s foreign policy in the framework, Asean was mentioned 45 times in the document.

In it, Malaysia outlined its priority to the Asean economic integration, to promote the idea of turning Asean into a ‘Producer Region’, to continue cooperation with other Asean Member States on the South China Sea issue, and to actively promote the spirit of Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (Zopfan).

Associate Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed of the Universiti Utara Malaysia’s School of Government said Malaysia’s foreign policy regarding Asean is based on the main philosophy of neutrality and non-alignment and prosper-thy-neighbour.

“If our neighbouring countries are prosperous, we will live in peace and harmony. This is why our focus is on building the areas at our borders such as with Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia, he said.

Ahmad Martadha said even as Malaysia continues its friendly relations with superpowers like the US, it has never - and will never - disregard Asean, as it is important for the country’s security, stability and economic prosperity. — Bernama

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